- Pardon and Amnesty, and: Provinces, and: The Hills, Beautiful Hills
"I suppose the one thing all three of these poems share is that none of them ended up where I thought they would. Initially I intended for 'Provinces' to be a brief sketch about some kind of intelligence officer and his smug underlings. 'The Hills, Beautiful Hills' began as a meditation on an old photograph of my three aunts in childhood in their bathing clothes on a dock in West Virginia. 'Pardon and Amnesty' started out as 'Forsythia in Snow' and didn't really gain any traction for me until I moved that image into the background. In the end, for better or for worse, all of them outgrew their original conceits and expanded into poems which, I hope, pushed beyond the simplicity of those early images that attracted my attention in the first place." [End Page 55]
- Pardon and Amnesty
A month agoIce faceted the willow. Our firstForsythia and daffodils were stunned
Beneath a pellet glaze of sleet.And for a raw few days the punkOf winter fires reclaimed our dismal street.
But other flowers now are freshly sunned,Flamingo-pink azaleas and the rose.A dust of violets blurs the college lawn
And all these creamy dogwoods,Having tousled out of bud,Enjoy a dry delicious April flood
Of greenery and shine.A colleague I despiseHas brought his freshman class outside.
Gathered like goslings at his feet,Some nod. Some pick at grass. Wind flipsThe unread pages of their books.
It's poetry, I overhear him say,The spirit's ancient longing voice. A pureExpression of the human soul.
He is all hogwash and hot air.But even in the blossom-softened treesThe cardinals and the mocking birds declare
It's just that kind of day, for song,For saying something generous or grand,Or at the very least not small. [End Page 56]
And Jesus, Anderson, what's wrongWith that? Besides, his students tendTo like him more than yours like you.
I wonder when that started being true,Or rather when it started meaning less.Like velvet white meringues,
Clouds cruise the stained-glass blue Ohio sky,And in the golden, post-Meridian decline of afternoon,
Groundskeepers weed and mow. To themWe're just two lucky bastards whoTeach twice a week then take the summers off.
Surely, we must be chums.Fat chance. No shot in hell. And yetThese days it gets more difficult to find
Reasons to not be kind.The bitchy, shrill remarks and self-regardHarder to justify.
Aprils are fewer now. Perhaps that's why.Or maybe that I finally understand,Silence and letting be are better things.
I should be better at them than I am. [End Page 57]
Daniel Anderson's work has appeared in Poetry, the Kenyon Review, New England Review, the Yale Review, the Best American Poetry and Southwest Review, among others. He has published two books of poetry, Drunk in Sunlight (Johns Hopkins University Press) and January Rain (Story Line Press) and edited The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press). His honors include a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bogliasco Foundation. He currently teaches in the English Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Moonglow projections on a screen revealA drunken row of huts.It's difficult to tell if those are goatsOr just emaciated cowsGrazing at weeds among some haycarts.It is a chiseled, godforsaken place.Unmapped. Ambiguous. Potato-beige.Nothing glints. Nothing sparkles.Not one thing nourishes the eye.But lately, on the hamlet's western edge,There have been strange movements—Convoys of trucks arriving after dark.The construction of a generator shed.An ever-slight increaseIn local population.To get there would require,For one of these distinguished, graying men,Light packing and a taxi ride,The shuttle up to JFK,A change of flights in Frankfurt, thenAnother eighteen hours over land.Ice...